creating a simpler Christmas * day 9

Today was definitely a slow day of getting my head back into gear. We took mum home yesterday with many carrier bags so I think she had a good time and bought everything she wanted. She is finding it difficult to accept her limitations now and we had to abandon our usual trip to Tissington and Ashbourne this year as her feet and legs had swollen up so much with the travelling that we felt it would be a step too far and decided to stay a little closer to home, only venturing as far as the Chatsworth Estate near Bakewell to visit the farm shop and The Derbyshire Craft Centre nearby. I packed up a car picnic for us so she didn’t have to wait in a queue for lunch and a good job I did as it was so very busy everywhere.

I only managed to take the one photo during the weekend – mum kept me too busy – she managed to leave her stick in every shop and cafe we went in and sometimes her gloves too. Her handbag was safe as I carried it most of the time. Manouvering her in the crowds is not easy these days and people were trying to push her out of the way in their hurry – I was worried she would over balance. None of the shops have a seat for the elderly anymore so I didn’t get much of a chance to look for anything myself – as soon as she had what she wanted she was off back to the car for a sit down!

The scenery and Christmas lights on the journey into Derbyshire did not disappoint, though on the whole I felt there were less decorations around this year in everyone’s gardens – maybe a lot of people are feeling quite behind as far as Christmas goes – neither of my neighbours have their lights up yet.

I have been feeling pretty exhausted today and rather than do any of the Christmas things on my list I made a start with a little clearing up and cleaning – I had the beds to change and washing to do and then some hoovering and dusting so that the house is ship shape and ready to decorate when I get round to it.

I am still dithering over the indoor tree – we are away for Christmas and not really hosting anything so I may even go for a simple decorated branch or a £10 potted tree. At this very moment I feel too worn out to even think about it.

For lunch we had a simple winter salad of grated beetroot, grated carrot and cucumber with a drizzle of olive oil dressing – apparently it is one of the healthiest meals you can eat – packed with vitamins and minerals; we had ours with some egg mayonnaise sandwiches and it was nice to have a meal at home after living on a lot of cafe meals in the last few days where they serve you a garnish of limp lettuce and an unripe tomato.

For the rest of the day I printed down my Christmas card list and tomorrow I will make a start on writing them and finishing our yearly newsletter. We have to stay in as the worktop man comes at 9.30am so we will need to have everything ready for him. DH has been working on cutting the wall cupboard down to size so hopefully by the end of tomorrow I should see some advances in the pantry.

Thank you for all your lovely comments wishing me a good weekend – I am not sure how much longer these Christmas visits will be possible for my mum so it was especially nice to be able to take her out so she could still get some of her Christmas bits and bobs.

creating a simpler Christmas * day 6

What could be simpler than taking some time out during the Christmas frenzy we often find ourselves in when we are running around going from completing one important task to another. Stepping back to really absorb the Christmas spirit and watching the festive season unfold rather than rushing through it is much more desirable, although not always possible.

Having my mum to stay for a few days gives me this opportunity…..it forces me to stop and just enjoy the time and I try not to think about the 101 jobs I should be attending to. We browse around the shops looking for nothing in particular, stopping frequently now for a sit down and a coffee or a leisurely lunch. Today we went down to our local town centre and then round to Sainsbury’s.

We bought the tins of biscuits for the family and a bottle of whisky for DH; I bought a few fresh rolls to have with some homemade mushroom soup tomorrow – the cafe we usually go to for lunch are unable to reserve a table and mum cannot stand in a queue for long so we are opting to take a picnic instead and then go to the cafe for afternoon tea when it is quieter.

Finally this evening, we met my brother for a fish and chip tea and a natter, keeping everything relaxed – well as relaxed as it can be when I am looking after mum.

There have been moments of frustration. Her memory is not what it used to be and asking shop assistants for some of that ‘ buferon’ cream doesn’t get her very far and they look as bewildered as I am. Of course it was Ibuprofen gel for her knee and Boots will not sell it to her because she takes blood pressure tablets and it needs to be prescribed by the doctor. Trying to explain this to her….well you can imagine…she is having none of it.

Tomorrow we have our trip down into Derbyshire – it is always the highlight of my Christmas and I will immerse myself in all the delights of the beautiful decorations, twinkly lights and Christmas windows.

Have a wonderful weekend. x

creating a simpler Christmas * day 4

Today I have made a start on the Christmas card.

I have been working on a lino cut wreath design but in case I don’t get the time to finish it I decided on these little hand stamped ones too. I like the idea of sending out love and peace to everyone.

They were very simple to make and I love the simplicity of the design and the crumbliness of the texture from using wooden rather than rubber stamps. I chose the message ‘Peace on Earth’; it seemed to fit with the candle theme quite well.

I used small cream cards from a selection of the blank card stocks I have accumulated over the years and a tiny wooden candle stamp I bought from Oxfam a long time ago for £1.49. I tried out the copper coloured ink pad I bought the other day from the Range. So very minimal cost.

The key to making cards is those little finishing touches that really help to personalise them. I usually print out an inner leaf paper, stamp the back of the card with a ‘homemade’ stamp and add a further tiny stamped motif on the envelope flap.

The message inside is one of my favourites from the book of John ‘ the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’ – such an appropriate bible reading for our world at the present time.

I also thought a touch of glitter would be nice to add to the flame.

I have made a quick mock up of the lino cut print too – this year a simple wreath overstamped with a little copper ink using fir tree branch motif. The red berries will be added afterwards by hand.

This is just the first ideas roughly sketched in felt tip pen. I am not sure if I prefer the scroll writing of the second stamp or maybe I will have a look out in a craft shop for a Season’s Greetings message.

Anyway this might end up being next year’s card so I will have plenty of time to play about with the design.

On the home front we have now heard back from the garage, they assessed the car yesterday and got the parts and today it is ready for collection. Let’s hope we can pay the bill – I think it wil be a sit down job.

I have more returns to Sainsbury’s so we will pop round there and I will try not to buy anything. When we get home I do need to have a good tidy up – crafting can be a very spread out untidy job.

Now I have the cards I need to get on with the yearly news letter – I send a lot of them out by email but still have to enclose some in with the card. It is often quite therapeutic looking back over the year and you can see a balance of the good things that happened along with the ‘lesser’ good or in our case, this particular year, the pretty awful.

I will be back creating more for my simpler Christmas tomorrow. Have a good day x

creating a simpler Christmas * day 3

I am feeling less muddle headed today after our problematic weekend. The car has been taken away on a low loader to a nearby Citroën specialist and we await their assessment in a day or two.

A nice man came yesterday to give us a quote for doing the pantry worktop – on the face of it he seems to be someone who produces accurate work – I like that as I have a very keen straight eye and like things done ‘proper’- but we shall see. I also persuaded DH to ask him to cut down the wall cabinet for us as he will most likely have a circular saw that will power through the melamine faced carcass of the cupboard in no time.

In the afternoon we went down to town in my little car – I had two internet orders to collect; one from Bodyshop (Vitamin E cream, 30% off) and Boots (a Liz Earle skin repair cream, 20% off). I also bobbed into the Range for some thin card for a Christmas activity (to be revealed) and whilst I was there picked up a lovely bronze coloured stamping ink and some tiny white jingle bells.

Then round to Sainsbury’s with some returns and to pick up a few groceries and fresh fruit and veg for the week. I also noticed at the checkout that some Christmas items (reduced of course) had found their way into my trolley….can’t think how that happened ……….DH is never impressed with anything Christmas, I just have to ignore him.

My total spend on such frippery was a mere £10 – although in state pension terms that is quite a lot – maybe it will have to come out of our winter fuel payment – just as well that I cosied up under a throw last night instead of putting any heat on. Keeping the house warm on a budget in these freezing temperatures is quite difficult and I can understand how some elderly people simply cannot afford to heat anything other than the one room.

The bits and pieces I bought will be making an appearance as I work through creating my simpler Christmas.

For my task today I have decorated last year’s rooted Christmas tree that is outdoors in a pot using a string of outdoor lights and these pretty little bulb shaped baubles that I bought -I am not overly convinced they look that wonderful on the tree but it was far too cold out there today to be spending a long time trying out different things so they will stay put for the moment.

Another quick and simple task off my list.

I have also been having a look on the internet for a Christmas event that we can go to with our friends. Last year we went to Dunham Massey and their light extravaganza which was quite awesome. This year we are looking at Hardwick Hall or Haddon Hall in Derbyshire.

I also want to go and see the Alan Ayckbourn play, Absurd Person Singular at the Bingley Little Theatre – it is an observation of three different couples Christmases and should be quite funny – has anyone seen it?

Back tomorrow with more creating. x

creating a simpler Christmas * days 1 and 2

This year I wil be creating a much simpler Christmas for those readers who are following along.

There will be simpler decorations, simpler food and a few simple activities and crafts.

As you will notice I missed starting yesterday but I am not fretting about that (much) and I am beginning today with a clean sheet of paper and time to gather my thoughts. It is exceptionally cold outdoors today and the areas of my garden that were tinged with frost earlier have surprisingly now thawed. Inside I can sit near the fire warm and snug and make a few plans – not the daily planned activities of last year; rather my run up to Christmas this year will just evolve like a mystery journey, even to me, over the next few days.

The whole point this year is to relax and enjoy the season.

Presently I am in recovery mode. We had another hectic weekend. Of course it wasn’t intended as hectic. Things just happen – well at least to me.

We drove up to North Yorkshire again on Saturday morning, making a flask of soup before we went; homemade tomato and a round of sandwiches. It was a pleasant, if not busy drive, but no hold ups. We pulled off the road at Boroughbridge and parked by the wier over the bridge whilst we ate.

After calling in at my daughter’s new house with our overnight bags we went up the A19 to Yarm to collect my mum. We had planned to have a toastie and hot chocolate for teatime in Costa at Northallerton and look around a few shops with mum until it was time to go to the talent show in my sister’s village nearby.

Our first unexpected problem was that Costa on the high street had a completely empty fridge – no food whatsoever. Not to worry I said they have another branch in Tesco. We returned to the car parked a few yards away just in time to see a lady reversing out of her parking spot and into the rear end of our car, but not in time to stop her before she drove away – either oblivious to what she had done or with the intention of ignoring it and DH who was running after her. She was too quick in her get away for us to get her number as it was quite dark and her plate very dirty. There is scraping on the rear end beyond the back door but luckily no dent.

A bit upset by this incident we managed to shrug it off so it didn’t spoil the day and drove round to the Costa at Tesco and yes glory be….there was food….but the coffee machine was out of order so no coffee or hot chocolate – we had to make do with tea.

After getting warm and fed we then drove to my sister’s village and settled ourselves down at one of the reserved tables in the village hall where my mum had a good view. The show was amateur but brilliant and my sister and her husband did a dance routine fom Laurel and Hardy and a spoof Red Barrows performance amongst a few other things. The whole village is great at coming together to put on these kind of events and even we are starting to feel like part of their community.

During the interval they served us with delicious hot pie and peas (we had a green ticket for the vegetarian option – cheese and onion pasties) and there was wine or soft drinks. I won a raffle prize that I passed onto my sister as it was some kind of cocktail maker and would be lost on me as I rarely drink.

All sounds fun so far but then during the second half the trouble started – two men came on and played Country and Western music and some of the audience got up and started line dancing – then another man joined in and they played ballards. We were all enjoying them but mum not so much and got fidgety, kept checking her watch every few seconds like she does when she is anxious and then moaning in a loud voice. She dislikes guitar music…….apparently (in all my life I never knew that) she didn’t know the songs (Achy Breaky Heart, Moondance and similar) and to put it plainly just wanted to go at this point as she felt they had played far too long by this time and was making quite a scene about it.

They were very good and we were all enjoying ourselves save my mother and I felt so bad having to cause a commotion trying to get her into her coat and walk out during their performance. It turns out they were only another song away from the end but mum being mum could not sit and be polite – age has turned her into a very demanding and self-centred old lady at times. It was one of those embarrassing moments when you wish the earth would swallow you up.

In the car she said she hoped she hadn’t stopped us from enjoying the evening but really she couldn’t have listened to that any longer!!! After taking my mum home we went back to stay with my daughter and on the Sunday we took her and the two girls down to Ikea in Leeds to look for a wardrobe for her new house. You can imagine the scenes at Ikea – an overload of people and queues that resembled a rugby scrum – but we managed to choose something that she will order online this week and have delivered. We are giving her some money towards them for her birthday and Christmas….and maybe next birthday and Christmas, depending on how much they turn out to be!

On the way home the fun started again -only 10 miles from my daughter’s house we pulled off the A1M at the Boroughbridge junction to fill up with petrol at Morrisons but just at this point something was obviously not right with the car. We initially though we had a flat tyre as the car was beginning to bump along quite badly and we were forced to stop on the roundabout bridge over the motorway. I got out of the car to look and realised the back end of the car was almost sitting on the ground.

We called our breakdown service and because we had the baby and Little L with us we did get priority but we still had to wait an hour. They would recover the car either to our daughter’s house up the road or back to ours. A minor problem was that all our bags and my medication was at my daughter’s and we needed to collect that first. Would the recovery vehicle please take my daughter and children home first and then take us home. No they could not. They could organise a taxi to take us to our daughter’s house and the recovery vehicle to take DH home with the car. It could not be recovered to a garage because it was Sunday and they are all closed.

There was no other option forthcoming – so we had to take the taxi on offer which would leave me stuck up in North Yorkshire and DH was taken first to Morley in Leeds then transferred onto a second recovery vehicle that took him home. Once at my daughter’s house I had to ask my son-in-law who lives near us in Huddersfield to drive up to collect me and our bags and bring me home. What a farce.

We now have an undriveable car on our drive and DH is trying to get someone to come and recover it to take it to a Citroen specialist to be fixed. It is the hydraulic suspension that has gone – it sounds like an expensive problem to me and will be more so if we have a bill for the second recovery to a garage.

So not only is the car being recovered but we are too! You will forgive me if I am not able to think about Christmas very much today but I am grateful that we are home safe and sound and warm. I might even speak to my mum later and be pleasant now I have had time to cool off from that little ordeal.

Keep safe and warm x

dear diary :: rain, rain, go away

Honesty

As a few people are joining in with ‘white month’ theme – here is my contribution of the beautiful white honesty in our garden…actually this was last years as it is biennial but I so love the picture I thought it deserved another airing.

Of course it was always going to rain in buckets yesterday as I had a hair appointment booked for the afternoon – I looked like a drowned rat when I got to the hairdressers and then again after I left and reached the car park, so much for the new hairdo – but at least my hair is cut into something resembling a style now – not much different to normal, a little shorter but far easier to manage. I would take a picture but I am still drying out!

Yesterday morning elder daughter arrived again with little Freddie – it was beginning to feel a little like ground hog day that I keep on reliving. DH stayed home and amused little Freddie whilst we went down to see the florist and order a few stems of the hypericum berries, eucalyptus, thistle and a deep purple lisianthus. We will eek these out with a cheaper bunch of cream flowers; roses maybe or chrysanthemums and alstroemeria from the supermarket. The lady who runs the shop is always so helpful especially when you are working to a budget. I can collect them on the Friday before the christening to make up the posies for the Sunday so the flowers will have nicely opened by then.

Once back at home I did a little mise en place – chopping veg, making the breadcrumbs and grinding the nuts for the nutloaf so that DH could cook and assemble it as per instructions whilst I was out at the hairdressers – it is now in the freezer. That was excellent team work – he also made some more leek and potato soup with the left over veg and halloumi bake for tea whilst I managed to sew up the raglan part of the jumper. He then spent the rest of the evening recovering.

Not a lot happened in the pantry yesterday. DH had to have a trip to the other side of town for low tack masking tape – not easy stuff to find – some of it is rubbish and still sticks like glue and fetches the fresh paint off when you remove it so it was worth going further afield to get the better one.

Today we are aiming to go to Sheffield, weather and flooding allowing – they have had it bad again and I heard some people got stuck in the Meadowhall shopping mall. I need to sort out Sweetie’s birthday present and card – I never intended to leave it to the last minute but it has ended up with Friday being the only free day this week. I have to try and give equal amount of time to my two daughters so that both the events they are planning get sorted; so today I won’t be seeing little Freddie and will be turning my attentions to little Sweetie and her birthday on Sunday. I still need to squeeze in some time to mix the buttercream for the cake ready to take with me.

Phew a granny’s life is never done!!

My mum had a better day yesterday thank you – woke up fine then went off colour again mid morning but OK when I rang in the evening – but still no bloods taken – maybe today. My sister is going in daily and cooking a meal for her – in return we are collecting her daughter (my neice) from Sheffield uni on Saturday and taking her with us up to North Yorkshire to save my sister the journey. It will mean an extra hour or so onto our journey but it is the least we can do to help out.

If the rain continues we may have to hire a canoe!

This may be my last post for a few days while we are away – it gets tricky to do very much when we are staying at my daughter’s house. So have a lovely weekend everyone and I’ll update you when we are back if I don’t get to pop in before that. Stay warm x

dear diary :: party ideas on a budget

Yesterday was just a little too intense for my liking – I didn’t really have a minute to myself other than getting washed, dressed and eating breakfast and doing a couple of housekeeping tasks before my daughter and little Freddie arrived.

There are no photos today either…no time and nothing much to take other than a list of plans…but I think we have all the arrangements for the christening and the party afterwards underway now and every base covered. When I had my daughters christened it was a much simpler affair – I booked the church, made the cake, used the family christening gown and we had a few homemade sandwiches afterwards and a cup of tea at my mum’s house – we only had brothers, sisters, grandparents and great grandparents, so fewer people to cater for.

We have invited the wider family to this do – aunts and cousins and a few friends and surprisingly all have said yes even though they live quite a distance away. I think some of them are making it a nice weekend away. It will be lovely to see them all as very often these days it is only at weddings and funerals that we all get together.

It should be a lovely day too – but I like to keep a balance with these events between nice ideas and cost – with the arrival of Pinterest all these events like weddings, anniversaries, baby showers and christenings, can be as elaborate as you can dream up – it must be a generation thing; but the dreams can easily turn into nightmares and I feel like I might be the voice reigning things in all the time – not that I am trying to spoil the party just making sure the plans are achievable without being overstretched, overstressed and over budget.

Being creative on a low budget is something I have done all my life and one of my tasks today is to visit the florist in the village – I volunteered to arrange a few flowers for the tables which we are covering with some old white cotton sheets passed down from my grandmother (my mum’s idea as they did this for her wedding reception in 1947!) Without giving too much away on here I am looking to order a few stems of eucalyptus and hypericum berries to add to some cheaper supermarket flowers and make little jam jar posies for the table centres. I am already drying some hydrangea heads to put in the larger glass Ikea vases I saved from my daughter’s wedding.

My daughter and I also bought a cake stand each – we couldn’t track down the £4.99 ones from B&M so found some rather nice two tier china ones in Dunelm which have a pretty pattern round the edge and have been reduced to £7 – perfect to serve our afternoon tea on.

We will also be able to reuse some of the miles of bunting I made for her wedding to decorate the village hall and we have plenty of fairy lights and candles from the same event to add some ‘glow’ – it is good that we can reuse a lot of the things we had at the wedding – I knew, given time, they would come in handy!

The christening gown has been a bit of a problem – my daughter wants a very traditonal gown but little Freddie is now 9 months old and the family gown too small – or he too big. Sweetie’s gown from her christening in May is too flouncy so a new one must be found as I won’t have time to make one.

With all this planning and discussion going on DH just quietly escaped to the pantry and finished the final coat on the walls. I think he has only to put a coat, maybe two, of All White eggshell on the woodwork and then we will be onto making up the units. At last.

Thank you for all the well wishes for my mum. I would pass them on to her but there is little chance she would know what a blogger is! She seems to feel better towards the end of the day but then wakes up again in the same state where she feels quite unwell. No one came yesterday to take the blood so we are told it will might be today.

My sister bless her is holding the fort up there until I can get up to ease the load. We both seem to be of the ‘sandwich’ generation…. spreading our time between old and young, trapped in the middle – only I feel we are more like a cheese toastie….often on melt down.

I am hoping mum feels a bit better today. Until we know the cause nothing can be done and I know she is feeling very anxious not knowing what is wrong. But knowing mum she will be determined to make our little family gathering on Sunday for Sweetie’s 1st birthday – she won’t want to miss out.

This morning I have to weigh and chop all the ingredients for a nut loaf to take with us when we go up to North Yorkshire at the weekend to stay with my younger daughter. DH will take over, mix it together and cook it when he has finished the painting whilst I go to the hairdressers and relax for an hour or two this afternoon….bliss….then on to the florist in the village.

Did I mention the tablemats did not materialise? – they are waiting for another day – maybe tomorrow will be less hectic!

dear diary :: when it’s dismal outside

Could the weather be more dull or drizzly? I can see where the saying ‘feeling under the weather’ comes from as it can feel a touch depressing. I am even struggling to take photos inside in the gloom. DH is just drinking more of his strong coffee to keep awake – at least it is on offer – half price at Sainsbury’s so I have stocked up big time. I need to keep him going whilst he is doing the decorating – he has now moved on to putting more primer coats on the woodwork.

It can seem a slow job when you are eagerly waiting for it to be finished. I haven’t taken any photos today as there isn’t a marked difference to the previous ones….not that you will see in a photo.

Yesterday turned out to be a bit of a strange day – nothing like I had planned…. but that is not unusual. I was up at the normal hour about 7.30am and had breakfast with my new mats – I promise you will be tired of seeing them soon – but I am so loving them and the difference these two little mats have made I just have to photograph them. Often!

Only an hour or two into the morning and I had the first phone call of the day – my younger daughter – more chat about the upcoming birthday gathering. It seems we have both bought a number one candle for on top of the cake – so at the moment she is ’11’ – hers is a pink one – mine is rainbow coloured so I will save mine for little Freddie – he will be one in January!

By the time we had finished I was late starting the soup – leek and potato today as we hadn’t had this for a while and it is so lovely and colourful – you can’t beat homemade soup when it’s dismal outside.

I like to add some decent chunks of carrot to mine and I only part blend the soup to give it some body but only enough so that most of the veggies are still identifyable.

After lunch I wrote all the birthday cards for November and also a letter or two to get in the post, I like to send hand written letters when I can it is a dying art like postcards…but aren’t they lovely to receive.

We then headed for town again.

I needed to buy the interfacing for the other two tablemats at our indoor market hall and look around some of the out of town retail shops – Mothercare, TK Max, Boots and Next as well as pop into the Range for some double sided tape. Everywhere had such a tempting array of goods I was almost wishing I was back at work and had my monthly wage to be able to buy some of the things I saw. But I reminded myself I really don’t need anything very much and just bought one or two low priced things to satisfy that desire to buy something.

I went for the interfacing first to get that off my list so I didn’t forget it (it has been known for me to come back having totally forgotten what I had originally gone to town for – I am easily distracted!).

On my travels around the shops I found a roll of light brown parcel paper – often it is a very yellowy dark brown but I am quite particular about my brown paper LOL! and prefer the lighter greyer colour for printing on to use as wrapping paper at Christmas. I popped into Boots as I noticed the cotton wool pads are on offer – 3 for 2 this week – so that is my supplies replenished for the coming months, and I got extra points on them too as a bonus.

I thought the Christmas tree shaped vol au vents Sadie mentioned on her blog are really nice – they are doing them in Waitrose too but then I noticed this set of cutters in TK Max for £2.99 so guess what…..I will be having a go at making my own nearer to Christmas with the two smaller cutters and maybe some gingerbread with the larger one.

Pleased with my purchases we came home, made tea and then snuggled down for the evening – I was too tired by this time to even light the candles but that didn’t matter, however, life is not straight forward is it – just as I was relaxing I had another phone call from my daughter to say she had heard through the family grapevine that grandma was not well.

I had only spoken to my mum (who is 93 and lives in one of those lovely retirement apartments near my sister in North Yorkshire) the evening before and she was fine. When I spoke to her last night she was in bed resting and said she had woken up feeling quite off and dizzy yesterday morning and thought it was her blood pressure. My sister had called the doctor who came out to her and he agreed with her diagnosis. They will send someone out to her to take her blood today and run some tests. I hope she is better by Sunday for the get together.

Another Neal’s yard catalogue dropped through my door with a 20% off voucher on the back. As many readers know I love their products and I don’t think you can beat their Intense facial serum but I can only just afford it when it is discounted. I could order it online but I much prefer a day out to Sheffield to their nearest store – it is on the list.

Just as I was preparing for bed my elder daughter rang to chat about the upcoming Christening preparations….. again……. even the Royal Christenings will not have been so well planned – her job at work is managing projects and it continues into her home life – she always examines every detail quite carefully – from car parking at the church and venue to the sandwich fillings, I guarantee everything will be well thought out and I am the sounding board!

So an unintentional late night.

My daughter is coming round today with little Freddie so we can carry on the conversation and finalise a few more bits – maybe I might just get the other two tablemats made in and amongst while she is here. x

dear diary :: cleaning, baking and shopping

Back to grey and dismal and plenty of rain yesterday. How glad am I that I decided to go in the garden on Sunday whilst it was dry and sunny and get my planters sorted. It was far too dark to sew the jumper or do anything that required plenty of concentration and light, even with my daylight anglepoise switched on.

So I cleaned instead – both bathrooms and our bedroom. Not a thorough clean but not a quick flick of the duster either, just enough to bring a shine and that lovely smell of clean freshness into each room. I like to fling the windows open in the mornings even if it is raining – I do end up with wet window sills sometimes.

Lunch was a simple affair; we had more of the mushroom soup (the recipe is now in the recipe tab) with the remains of the previous night’s salad and a few slices of bread and butter.

Then I set to and baked the four victoria sandwich cakes that will make up the birthday cake. They are so simple to make – I only have two sandwich tins of the same size though – I used the smaller 8″ ones as we don’t want a huge cake to eat. What a shame I couldn’t bake all four at once to save on electricity. I might just invest in two more tins as I can see that there are going to be many children’s birthdays coming up in the future.

The cakes are now layered between greaseproof paper and in the freezer. I will be taking them up with us to my daughter’s house on Saturday so that Little L can help decorate it once I have assembled the layers with a little jam and cream. I am planning on plain vanilla buttercream around the outside covered with these colourful sprinkles I found in Sainsbury’s. I think Little L will manage the sprinkles quite well!

I planned a few meals to take us up to Friday evening and went down to Sainsbury’s for the shopping. We were later setting off than I would have liked by the time the cakes were cooked and cooled and we met with the after school traffic and the queues. It made me feel quite glad that I no longer have to battle this traffic every night after work.

I bought a dress in Sainsbury’s that was half price – reduced to £9 – it needs a good press and I hope it fits. It is made of a warm stretchy jersey and I can wear it with fine wool tights and my boots so I will probably wear it on Sunday for the birthday get together.

DH has a second coat on the walls now but is going for a third to make sure it will not need redecorating for a long time. Sorry for the poor photo quality the light is really so bad again today. The ceiling is All White and the walls Ammonite – a soft grey that we are using throughout the house as we decorate each room. We also have lights.

Tomorrow might see the end of the painting and then the part I have been waiting for – assembling and fitting the units. Once these are in I will be able to see what space I have and start planning what might go where.

We have never had a microwave other than at the cottage as I enjoy cooking and make most of our meals from scratch each day. The only reason we had one at the cottage was because we had to manage for a week without a cooker or fridge when we first bought the place. When we do our kitchen (planned for next year) we will be in the same position again, without cooker and fridge for a while, so we thought a small microwave might be useful and we can keep it and use it in the pantry.

On a different note altogether I thought I might mention the book I am reading – borrowed from the library – The Christmas Reader by Godfrey Smith. It is a collection of Christmas stories and poems. Some of them are quite interesting because they are reminiscences and diary entries from famous people such as Harold Macmillan and young Queen Victoria.

Harold Macmillan and his family spent their Christmas at Chatsworth – his account of this exuberant Christmas period is fascinating. Many of the Devonshire family and their additional friends and guests arrived with their own staff and ponies so the numbers ultimately reached to 150 people spending Christmas at Chatsworth – that is some party and a lot of catering! Many of the women and children stayed on after the Christmas festivities for another 2-3 weeks (imagine that!).

The excerpt I read last night was about as opposite as you can get – a piece written by Winifred Foley from A Child in the Forest and part of a trilogy about the hardships of a very poor family. Their Christmas breakfast was half a tin of Nestlé milk to share on their toast. I would like to read more so will be tracking her books down in the library – maybe some readers have already read them?

Today is dismal again I am not sure I should attempt sewing up the jumper but I do have plenty of paperwork to be doing – the receipts are mounting up and I haven’t done an October tally yet to see what shape our finances are in. Interestingly, Lucinda mentioned in her recent post about ‘feeling’ when her finances were OK even when she had no hard figures to view and I can very much relate to that. I think we all know when we might have overspent.

I also have the November birthday cards to write and get ready for delivery or posting. I hope I made enough. If I have any time left over I will probably look at the Christmas card design again.

Better go and get on with the day now – have a good one. x

dear diary :: Sunday – not quite a day of rest

Yesterday I awoke with every intention of sewing again until I drew back the curtains and saw that it was dry and sunny with a wonderful blue sky – perfect for going out into the garden and getting the planters done at last. And I am so glad I took the window of opportunity as it is back to grey dismal fog and rain today.

I had bought 2 outdoor cyclamen plants in Thirsk and then when we were in Sainsbury’s shopping they were selling some for £1 each – such a bargain, so I bought four more.

I found the golden Ilex shrub in Tesco for £6 to add a bit of winter foliage to the larger planter. I used four of the cyclamen plants in the pots and the other two I planted in the front border. I always plant into a plant pot that will fit snuggly into the pottery planters so I can swap them about easily as the seasons change.

Before I put the pots back in place by the front door I brushed all the cobwebs away that had collected under our open porch and round the door. I suspect the neighbours might be thinking that the abundantly draped cobwebs and huge black spiders were part of my Halloween decorations!

I felt a pang of guilt at removing the spider’s homes – we have had numerous ones running across the living room floor recently while we are sitting watching TV in the evening – hopefully we will have a few less coming inside now.

Whilst I was in a clean up mode I washed down all the white plastic gutters and the boarding under the porch roof, the front door and the garage door. Whilst I was on a roll I also cleaned the windows and swilled the steps.

So now our house looks far more presentable. As I was precariously balancing on the steps scrubbing away we had a visit from the local Labour party canvassers and rather than talking politics we all stood back to admire my handiwork. They were very complimentary – a sure way to earn my vote!!

My younger daughter was my interuption today – she rang for a chat about the upcoming birthday get together for Little Sweetie. I never mind having a chat with my daughters no matter what I am in the middle of – I like to hear their news. It was a short call today – only an hour – we can always find things to talk about but you can see why I never get very much done in a day. During the phone call…. somehow…. and don’t ask me how, I managed to volunteer myself into making the birthday cake – I hate the thought of buying one when they are so simple to bake. That is another task to add to my list. I do need sectioning for my own good!!

DH ended up making the mushroom soup, which was rather good – a mixture of chestnut and ordinary white mushrooms with a leek for added flavour. He flaked some Parmesan cheese and added a few sprigs of parsley. And it tasted so much better laid out on the new mats!

I am trying to keep off the tomato soup at the moment as it is not very good for arthritic conditions and may be affecting my knee.

After lunch I did attempt to sew the jumper but the light had gone and I can’t for the life in me remember how I had sewn up the right hand raglan and I do need it to match. I must find the You Tube example I followed – I hope I bookmarked it. Rather than make a mistake I put it aside for another day. The cushion cover never even got a look in but I did discover I have no idea how to tell the right side from the wrong side – my mum’s knitting is so neat I could not tell any difference – any ideas anyone?

Whilst I was debating what to do next DH informed me that Emma was on the TV all afternoon from 4 pm so being a Jane Austen fan I decided to clean the living room whilst I watched the first two episodes – hoovering only during the adverts. I popped some jacket potatoes in the oven so that they would be ready by the time I had finished cleaning and we had them with salad, a mound of freshly grated beetroot and grated cheese on trays in the living room so I could watch the final episode of Emma.

DH has now put a second coat on the pantry ceiling and a mist coat on the walls. The woodwork has had a primer coat too so today he will just be doing more of the same.

As today is our usual shopping day I will be thinking about a meal plan for the week, checking the cupboards and writing a shopping list. I will have to have a root around to make sure I have all the ingredients for the birthday cake too. If I find I have some spare time I will have another go at sewing up the jumper though the light is really bad today so may abandon this again in favour of some more cleaning.

Doing the washing is definitely out in this weather.

Thank you everyone for the lovely comments on the last post you are all too kind – I think I have answered them all. There are some good ideas for me to get my act together and protect organise my time a bit better – though it would seem one or two are just like me and volunteer themselves into anything!

Thank you also to Occasional Scotland for the tiny house links – they may come in useful when we get down to planning our course of action.

Have a good day. x